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Troutman's employees keep spirit of giving

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By Michele Stewardson
Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012, 9:03 p.m.
 

Every year, a group that tags itself the “Troutman Basement Retirees” makes a donation to Operation Santa Claus in the spirit of a department store that exemplified Christmas through animated window dressings, interior trees and decorations and a marquee with Santa Claus.

The group that once worked at the store in downtown Greensburg still meets once a week for lunch.

“There are only eight to 10 of us now; I don't know how much longer we can do this,” Joanne Fetter said. “There used to be 20 to 30 of us but most are deceased now. We have a kitty and each year we donate $50 (each) to Operation Santa Claus and the (Westmoreland County) Food Bank.”

Fetter worked for 18 years in the main office at Troutman's.

According to “Greensburg Downtown Historic District, A Walking Tour,” a book published in 1998 by the Westmoreland Trust, the store opened in 1923 in Greensburg. It closed in 1985 when Troutman's became Pomeroy's at the Westmoreland Mall in Hempfield.

“There's nothing there now to attract people into the city,” Fetter said. “When Troutman's was there, there used to be Murphy's across the street and eateries all over. Now there are just a lot of office buildings.”

Della Pushic, 90, who worked as a saleswoman at Troutman's for 30 years, said that Greensburg is not what it used to be. She said there used to be shops all over Main Street and now there's only a few on Pennsylvania Avenue and Second Street.

She remembers the Lilly Shop that sold curtains and draperies, Harvey's Restaurant, Isaly's and G.C. Murphy's 5 & 10.

“I loved talking to the people, meeting so many different people,” Pushic said of her Troutman's career.

The department store carried television sets and she still remembers people coming in on their lunch hour to watch their soap operas.

Michael Pardus, 76, who retired from the fourth floor of Troutman's after 35 years, said that employees all knew each other and they all knew the customers.

He and Pushic said there was a camaraderie among the Troutman's employees.

“Back then, people stayed. They didn't change jobs every six months, and as a result, you knew everybody,” said Pardus, who started as a drapery installer and then became a salesman and then a buyer for housewares, small appliances and gifts.

Before the malls, Troutman's and another downtown store, Royer's, were the places to shop.

Troutman's featured a restaurant and even a beauty salon.

For longtime customer Carol Stillwagon, Greensburg was a one-stop shopping destination.

“Now I think of it as the county seat. There are a lot of law firms, doctor's offices, and banks,” she said. “There are shops on Pennsylvania Avenue but no retail on Main Street.”

One of her favorite memories is a red-haired cashier who always wore black. She said she always looked forward to seeing the outfits and jewelry the woman was wearing because they were usually extravagant.

“It was a great store,” she said.

Pardus agreed.

“I do miss it,” he said. “Not just the store, but the people too.”

Michele Stewardson is a freelance writer.

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